Joanna Berry: We need to engage children in thinking about their careers

Director of engagement at Newcastle University's Business School says that businesses and schools need to collaborate and then celebrate success

Dr Joanna Berry
Dr Joanna Berry

I find those students who come into the university with a career already mapped out and a clear idea of how to get to “success” tend, not surprisingly, to do well.

But we also see students who come to the Business School with enormous amounts of character, wit, courage, positivity, and absolutely no idea where they want to go in life. They also tend to do well in a world where employers increasingly recruit for character and train for skills.

Both types of student know exactly who they are, and sometimes where they want to be, and this is a powerful combination.

But the current “advice” on careers to our young people is failing. There appears to be little attempt to match skills to ability and far too often parental ambition is the driving force. While there are a number of interventions and various schemes introducing enterprise to young people leaving school, these are too little and often far too late.

We at the Business School strongly support an initiative by Ammar Mirza, the new David Goldman Visiting Professor for Innovation and Enterprise, to get children interested in the career choices available to them, and the paths that they can follow, giving them a line of sight to all employers.

Ammar started with schools in Walker. The schools came together and established a corner shop. The managers of this shop were 10-11 year olds planning, establishing and running their own business.

All of the activities relating to the setting-up, marketing, and managing of the shop were undertaken with the pupils and the business plan, development, and naming of the shop was incorporated into the curriculum. In parallel, the students have also been introduced to local businesses that are involved in Growth Industries – Science, Technology, Maths and Engineering.

The ultimate aim is to help young students understand key skills such as budgeting, social interaction, career planning, and personal development. Promoting strengths and addressing weaknesses, the project provides a practical platform for students to understand opportunities and realise future aspirations.

Now the really exciting opportunity is that through the Business School, the wider university and students who are working on this project, Ammar’s manifesto will be to encourage more university students to get involved in working with primary aged pupils.

This will help both national and international students to form local links and contribute to enriching their experiences and contribute to talent retention. This process will be underpinned by effective communication, cohesive collaboration and then a collective celebration between pupils, students and the local community.

All too often we hear about the negativity and talk ourselves down, yet we have some tremendous resources, the Local Enterprise Partnership and through it the launch of the innovative Growth Hub, the Progression Forum, City Deals, Culture focuses, Business Improvement Districts, Science Central and indeed my own, civic university.

Ammar is involved in many of these things yet none of these resources are truly connected and the only way to connect is through effective communication, collaboration and then celebrating the success that this brings.

We welcome Ammar with open arms and look forward to an energetic, enthusiastic and enlightening year with him!

Dr Joanna Berry, Director of Engagement, Newcastle University Business School


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